Governor Palin Monitors National Education Standards

 

“[Alaska] Governor Sarah Palin announced on May 31, 2009 that the State of Alaska has chosen to monitor but not yet actively participate in the upcoming initiative to create nationwide common core state standards in reading and math” (Education Initiative, 2009, ¶1).

“The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers have announced they intend to work with states to formulate standards in English and math for kindergarten through grade 12 by December 2009″ (Education Initiative, 2009, ¶2).

“Alaska’s decision not to participate until after we monitor this is based on our desire to spend our time and public resources to improve instruction in the classroom and to form productive relationships between schools and the communities they serve,” Governor Palin said. “If this initiative produces useful results, Alaska will remain free to incorporate them in our own standards” (Education Initiative, 2009, ¶3).

“Commissioner Larry LeDoux of the Department of Education and Early Development noted that Alaskans already have spent considerable time and money to develop detailed standards for the performance of students in grades 3 to 10 in reading, writing and math, including assessments to measure students in those core subjects. There also are numerous other standards for the content of curricula and the performance of younger students and of teachers” (Education Initiative, 2009, ¶4).

“Commissioner LeDoux noted that the Alaska Education Plan includes a commitment to review our standards” (Education Initiative, 2009, ¶5).

“Alaska’s assessments tell us useful information about our students,” LeDoux said. “Used correctly, the data helps guide instruction and leads to improved student achievement. If standards and assessments are changed, schools and parents will not be able to compare their students’ progress to recent years and once again we will be back to square one” (Education Initiative, 2009, ¶6).

“The standards are not the education problem we face,” the governor said. “The major challenges are persistently low achievement among some students and a low graduation rate. Now is the time for the state and school districts to work together to improve instruction and student achievement” (Education Initiative, 2009, ¶7).

“To that end, in this past legislative session the administration proposed and the legislature funded a pilot program to improve young children’s readiness for school and an initiative to help struggling school districts build a sustainable capacity to serve their students” (Education Initiative, 2009, ¶8).

“In addition to offering districts technical assistance in best practices that substantially influence school and student performance, the state will employ a director of rural education, who will build bridges between schools and communities, and draw on local resources” (Education Initiative, 2009, ¶9).

“The State of Alaska fully believes that schools must have high expectations of students,” Governor Palin said. “But high expectations are not always created by new, mandated federal standards written on paper. They are created in the home, the community and the classroom.” (Education Initiative, 2009, ¶10).

Commentary

We see a number of aspects of Governor Palin’s conservatism on display here. Politically speaking, this is pure Reagan conservatism — preference for small and limited federal government — and keeping local control. Her final two paragraphs synthesize that point more than adequately.

From the standpoint of executive leadership, we see a step-by-step “look before you leap” approach founded upon discipline. Governor Palin is not jumping headlong into a program that sounds good, but the details of which may prove troublesome later. She is monitoring and observing. The Governor will then proceed based on her observations.

We also see fiscal prudence here. AK already has high standards and has spent considerable sums of money to institute and maintain them. Spending money on a duplicate program at the federal level quite likely makes little sense.

Finally, as Governor Palin noted, achievement, not standards is the core issue in the AK educational system. A proper educational initiative; therefore, focuses on achievement as the root cause problem, not creating or adhering to yet another set of standards.

References

Alaska to monitor education initiative; reading and math nationwide standards. (2009, May 31). State of Alaska, Governor. Retrieved June 1, 2009 from: http://www.gov.state.ak.us/news.php?id=1872

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